Akai Tenshi (1966)

Genres - Drama, War  |   Sub-Genres - Medical Drama, War Drama  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Intense, brutal and shocking, Akai Tenshi is an unsettling, powerful, engrossing and disturbing portrait of the true horrors inflicted upon those who serve "on the ground" in a war, in any capacity, as well as an indictment of societies in which individualism is sacrificed for a perceived common good. It is a brilliant masterpiece, but the kind of film that many viewers will find incredibly difficult to watch. It outrages and depresses at once, and it doesn't work itself into knots trying to find a Hollywood ending: the resolution of the film is an anti-resolution, in keeping with its portrait of the powerlessness of those who are placed in an untenable situation in which no choice is a good choice, only the possibly lesser of evils. And yet in the midst of all this, director Yasuzo Masumura and scenarist Ryozo Kasahara also manage to create moments of daring, thrilling eroticism; at times the erotic content takes on a hopeful spirit, only to eventually be crushed by an ultimate despondency. It's astonishing filmmaking, the work of an artist operating at the top of his form, and is of a complexity that is alien to so many films. Akai also benefits from the gorgeous yet frightening cinematography of Yoriyoshi Arima, which adds significantly to the film's visceral impact. A challenging, difficult work, Akai Tenshi must be seen.